After the Flood

Author: Kassandra Montag

Published: September 19, 2019

Publisher: William Morrow

Where I picked up my book: Won in a giveaway

Key Words: post apocalyptic/dystopian, mother/daughter dynamics, adventure

My Rating: 4 star

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My Thoughts:

I’m still in awe that this is Montag’s first novel. This is a fantastic literary debut that is full of scenery, slight panicked stomach feelings the entire time I was reading, hope, fear and gripping prose. I was hooked from the very beginning and am slowly learning that post apocalyptic/dystopian literature might be my favorite genre. Who knew?! But after a few dystopian books…I am completely sucked in to the genre and found myself frantically googling, “must read dystopian books” like it was my job the other day.

One of the major things that struck me in this book is the idea of motherhood. I am not a mother myself, but that didn’t matter. I kept picturing myself in Myra’s sitation (the mother), with a daughter to keep alive, no medical care to speak of, people out to get you, a fend for yourself attitude among a lot of the survivors of the flood, being surrounded by water and what that means for safety, how to get food to provide for your child…the list goes on and on. I already think a lot of moms are superheros, but this just solidified that idea in me. I mean…my wife and I spent a lot of time discussing how we would properly care for our dog should this situation arise, so how in the world would I protect and care for my child?! I had nothing but admiration for Myra.

But also…can we talk about climate change for a minute? I heard someone discuss this book in biblical terms and I was like…nah. I’m not going there. I don’t see this as a biblical flood at all. What I do see this as is a cry for help due to the shit storm that our world has gotten themselves into with climate change. It’s real folks-our sea levels are rising, our lands are burning, we are seeing more drought situations and our oceans are warming. It’s not good and although I’m not sure what Montag’s position is on how the Earth flooded in her novel-I’m going with global warming because that’s a real, legit concern for me, and probably a lot of you. It should make you furious and do as much as you can to help prevent exactly what After the Flood is about.

I loved this book! It was everything I wanted it to be and more. It took me on a saga that was full of heartbreak and hope all wrapped into one. It was one of those books where I just kept flipping pages to find out what else was going to happen. I could vividly picture every scene and I’m soooo excited to see what Montag give us next. I think there are big things coming from here in the literary world!

As always, come find me on Instagram (@bookishfolk) and let’s chat books!

Bookishfolk…read instead.

 

Dominicana

Author: Angie Cruz

Published: September 3, 2019

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Where I picked up my book: My Book of the Month pick

Key Words: immigration, NYC, arranged marriage, love

My Rating: 4 star

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My Thoughts:

This is one of those books that held my heart and didn’t release it until the last page. It’s heart-wrenching, startling at times, powerful, heartwarming, and will have you thinking long after you read the last sentence.

I have a lot of thoughts, but I think it’s better if you go into this book relatively blind. So here are some things that I will say about it.

1. Some families will do just about anything for their family. I wasn’t born into one of those families, but at times, I wish I had been. I had friends that were part of that type of family and sure, it can be a slippery slope into some negative or toxic situations, but it can also lead you to some beautiful situations as well. You always know someone has your back and it allows you to make decisions based on something besides just yourself. This book had me thinking long and hard about that.

2. Dominicana was based on Cruz’s mother’s story and now I am obsessed with finding out exactly how. I haven’t found out yet-I’ll keep you posted if I do 🙂

3. 15 year olds are very, very young. They can do a lot, but they are, truthfully, still babies. We get to see Ana taking on the role of an adult woman and wife, but my favorite parts of the book were when we saw her acting her age. Cruz didn’t just dismiss her age and she didn’t let us dismiss it either and I appreciated that so much.

4. Apparently, I am obsessed with books based in old NYC. I like to think about what it was like to walk those streets, be excited about who the characters might bump into, what the atmosphere was like then, what a city that is a bit rough around the edges feels like—all of it! This book gives me a feel of that and I LOVEDDD every second of it!

5. Resiliency is amazing and I’ve been thinking about it ever since I read this book. No matter what life throws at Ana (the main character), she shakes it off and creates a new goal and a new dream for herself. This is something that I’ve been working on in my own life. Life throws curve balls at us all the time; the magic happens when we choose how to handle those curve balls. I learned a lot from Ana in this regard.

6. Loneliness is one of the saddest things a human can experience (in my opinion). As an introvert, I like to have a lot of alone time, but true loneliness can be so isolating, depressing and eventually lead to major problems for most people. Dominicana really describes what loneliness feels like through the eyes of Ana and it made me remember to reach out to people in my life more often that might experience loneliness and to not take for granted how many beautiful people I have in my own life.

At it’s core, this book is as much about marriage and family and immigration as it is about finding yourself amidst chaos and confusion. It’s a beautiful book and one that I promise you, will stick with you for a long time to come.

Have you read this one yet? If so, reach out and let’s chat!

bookishfolk…read instead.

 

Here We Are

Author: Aarti Namdev Shahani

Published: October 1, 2019

Publisher: Celadon Books 

Where I picked up my book: From publisher (THANK YOU!!!)

Key Words: immigration, family dynamics, memoir  

My Rating: 3.75

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My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I felt like I was given a front seat at a table that I have never sat at before…and I truly felt honored to be there. This is the story of the Shahani family, who came from India, through Casablanca, to Queens, New York. It’s a first hand, poignant account of what happens when undocumented people land on US soil, how undocumented people are treated, what is at risk for undocumented people, what happens to become documented, what life is like after you are documented, and everything in between. Yes, this is a first and account and is unique from this particular woman, but from what I hear and from what I have read, this story resonates with many families trying who are trying to call the United States home. We see the struggles, the pitfalls, the risks, the desires, the stresses, the intense fears…but we also see the hope, the laughter, the strength and the determination. Here We Are opened my eyes to not only what the process is like and specifically, how this family dealt with the good, the bad and the ugly of coming to America.

Here are some of my takeaways about our immigration system:

1. Immigrating to the US is not for the faint of heart and why in the world do we make it so complicated and corrupt?!

2. It seems like the story for every immigrant family is struggle. Struggling in their home country, and then struggling when they get to the US. As a country, we can do better to help with the transition. No one should have to live in cockroach infested homes, or a home that has a water leak causing toxic mold to grow because they are afraid to report it to a landlord who could report them as undocumented. No one should have to live with broken windows or broken heat in the middle of winter because they are nervous to set off someone’s radar and potentially get deported. It’s infuriating and we need a better system to support families that want to come to the US.

3. Our justice system is broken and corrupt and toxic, especially when dealing with immigrants. We can, and need to, do better!

4. In conclusion-WE CAN DO BETTER!

There is soooo much more in this memoir to talk about and discuss, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I went in pretty blind and was completely taken by Shahani’s journey. This is an articulate memoir that is sure to infuriate you, make you cry, make you laugh, help you better understand the role of family in many cultures and ultimately…I hope, lead you to talk more about immigration and our role in it all. Our country is intrinsically tied to the immigration experience and I think this book will not only help give a voice to many immigrants who are currently voiceless, but help to shine a brighter light on a highly relevant topic of today. It’s an honor to have read Aarti Namdev Shahani’s story and I’m thankful for her courage to write it. I will definitely be on the lookout for anything else Shahani offers us!

bookishfolk…read instead.

 

Good Talk

Author: Mira Jacob

Published: March 26, 2019

Publisher: One World (Random House) 

Where I picked up my book:  Purchased from local bookstore

Key Words: graphic novel, memoir, identity, interracial families, politics

My Rating: 5 (ALL THE STARS!!)

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My Thoughts:

I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! At first, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t sure about the fact that it was a graphic novel. I remember lovinggggg Maus by Art Spiegelman though when I read it in high school, so I thought I might enjoy this one too. And I was wrong. I didn’t just enjoy it, I LOVED LOVED LOVED this one and I am officially a convert to the graphic novel and will forever and always choose a graphic novel without hesitation from now on. In fact, I got so excited reading it-I started working on a graphic novel myself. I am an artist and a writer (nothing official, but in my heart-that’s what I am) and I can’t even believe I hadn’t thought of combining those two loves and created something powerful. It’s all talk on my end right now, but I’m excited about it! There are some things that I want to say and I want the world to hear, but creating something with only words didn’t seem quite right for me, or for the subject I wanted to talk about. Once I read Good Talk though, I had my ah-ha! moment and I’m excited. But…I digress. SO-if you’re anything like me, do not hesitate for one second to pick this one up. It’s powerful (probably even more powerful as a graphic novel) and I promise, you will not be disappointed!

Second, the amount of topics that Jacob covers is bewildering to me! I should say, the amount of topics she thoroughly covers in a beautiful, thought-provoking, intimate way… is bewildering to me! She delves into immigration, American identity, interracial families, politics, our divided nation (and sometimes, divided friendships and families), Obama’s election (YAY), the 2016 election (BOO), love, racism, sexuality and so much more. Somehow, she does it in a beautiful, thought-provoking, non-rushed, powerful way that will have you gushing to everyone you come in contact with.

Third, the artwork in here is fantastic! Humans are hard to draw…but Jacob does it brilliantly! And then to put the drawings on top of photographs?! Brilliant! I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see Jacob’s process, how it worked, understand how much time this took, and what it took to get this amazing piece of art published. I am in awe.

Fourth-please get this book! You will not regret it for one second. It’s funny and sad, heart-wrenching and beautiful all at the same time. It’s the exact book that America needs right now and I feel privileged to have read it. I think it’s one you will come back to again and again. (Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk 😉 )

As always, come find me on Instagram!

bookishfolk…read instead.

We Love Anderson Cooper

Author: R.L. Maizes

Published: July 23, 2019

Publisher: Celadon Books  

Where I picked up my book:  Publisher (#partner) THANK YOU and then I bought a final copy at my local Indie 🙂

Key Words: short stories, outsider POV, Jewish Lit, Magical Realism

My Rating: 4

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My Thoughts:

I loved this debut collection so much! As someone who has always felt like a bit of an outsider, and as a part of the LGBTQ+ community, these stories particularly resonated with me, made me feel seen and had a lasting effect of, “Huh. Life can be pretty great as an outsider and actually, when you think about it-there are a lot of us walking around as outsiders and that means I’m never really alone” and that feels good.

First, this collection had me thinking long and hard about the idea of being a part of the “other.” In this collection, these characters are treated as outsiders because of how they look, their sexual orientation, religious affiliation or race. As I read this collection, I kept thinking about how it felt fitting to read a book geared toward this topic with today’s political climate.  There seems to be a huge backwards jump to this sort of segregation mindset where the idea of the ‘us versus them’ is running rampant from the person on top and then trickling on down. I should probably say, it’s always been a part of our narrative (unfortunately) but now, it seems like there is this sense of permission happening and I can’t think of anything scarier. I’m not going to beat around the bush here-our political climate, and hence the nation in general, feels vulnerable and on the brink of disaster and I think those of us that have always felt like outsiders are feeling that awareness even more. Families are being separated and put into cages, Black and Brown people are being discriminated against and killed and it feels like no one is doing anything about it. Rights are being taken away from women, queer folx are being discriminated against and the government is tolerating it, and at times, initiating it. Outsiders are being put at risk and it’s truly terrifying to me. On the plus side, we’re seeing a battle cry rising from so many of us and again-just like in this book, it makes me feel less alone. There’s a whole, beautiful group of us ready to stand up for, and with, the ‘outsider’ and it’s truly the rainbow after (in this case, during) the storm. R.L. Maizes puts all of those thoughts and real-life scenarios, into enjoyable, relatable and amazing fiction and it’s a breath of fresh air.

Second, each short story has it’s own life and personality, but they are all funny, moving, thought-provoking and full of empathy. Truly, each story is full of this and that seems like a huge feat. I think some people tend to shy away from reading short stories because they can feel choppy or just as you start to get into the story, it ends-but that isn’t the case here! Each story provides a unique plot and story, but the themes are the same and it makes for a beautiful flow.

Third, people always ask me what my favorite stories in a collection are and although that can sometimes be hard to say, and it’s particularly hard in this case because I truly enjoyed all of the stories, I REALLY loved Tattoo, We Love Anderson Cooper and Couch. Seriously though-I thoroughly enjoyed them all…but this third point is for all of you who like itemization 😉

Lastly, I was lucky enough to hear R.L. Maizes speak at my local bookstore last week here in Colorado and I was completely enamored by her backstory, her motivation to write, how she writes and the path she took to get to where she is today. What she has to say carries a lot of merit and depth and I’m excited to see what else she has to offer us! And BONUS, she signed a book deal at the same time as this short story collection, so her book will be coming out in the near future. Woohoo!!  Here is a great write up from NPR too about this book! It’s a great review!

As always, find me over on Instagram at bookishfolk and let’s chat books!

bookishfolk…read instead.